Afghans protest Quran burning
A number of protests broke out in Afghanistan Friday and turned violent in response to Quran-burning plans by a Florida pastor, even after the pastor said he cancelled those plans.
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Thousands of others from various mosques in the area joined them over the next few hours, government officials in the area said, and the large group decided to proceed to the nearby Bagram Air Base, a major US military base.Skip to next paragraph
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“Today is Eid and we are supposed to be celebrating,” said Khan Agha, a protester. “But defending our religion is much more important. We want to confront the Americans.” The protesters blocked the main highway north of Kabul for nearly three hours, before local officials persuaded them to not approach Bagram.
Just one small church?
Protesters largely did not distinguish between the actions of an obscure church and US policy in general.
“Obama has done nothing to stop this,” explained a protester from the Bagrami district of Kabul (Obama did speak out against the planned Quran burning). “The non-Muslims are standing by while this is happening, so we will oppose them.”
Most of those interviewed expressed similar sentiments.
The demonstrations come as anti-Western sentiment is on the rise here, due to a bloody nine-year war that shows no signs of abating. Protests over a number of issues, especially civilian casualties, have become commonplace. In recent months, angry demonstrators have attacked foreign military bases, the vehicles associated with foreign contractors, and more.
A number of protests against the Quran-burning are planned for this weekend, including one led by a group of parliamentary candidates that will be near the US Embassy. Some Afghan government officials downplayed the protests, however, saying that anger would likely dissipate in the coming days.
But Western officials have been sounding alarms that the attention to the planned burning could further provoke anti-Western sentiments.
Top Afghanistan commander Gen. David Petreaus warned ABC News that the burn could “endanger the lives of thousands” of American citizens in Afghanistan and around the globe. Staffan de Mistura, the chief United Nations official in the country, warned that spiraling protests and riots could even delay the upcoming parliamentary polls, scheduled for next week.